HomeInsightsIntellectual Property Office says illegal streaming threatens copyright progress

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The IPO says that the streaming giants, such as Netflix and Spotify, have helped keep online infringement in check with innovative new streaming models. However, new threats are beginning to challenge recent progress.

The Online Copyright Infringement (OCI) Tracker, commissioned by the IPO, has revealed that 15% of UK internet users, approximately seven million people, either stream or download material that infringes copyright.

Legitimate streaming has grown in popularity once again with Spotify seeing a noteworthy 7% increase in user numbers since 2016.

However, illicitly adapted set top boxes, which allow users to illegally stream premium TV content such as blockbuster movies, threaten to undermine recent progress. The OCI Tracker showed that 13% of online infringers are using streaming boxes that can be easily adapted to stream illicit content. In an effort to understand where further action might be necessary to address this problem the IPO has also published a call for views. The Government response is due to be published later this summer.

Legal streaming of music is also under threat. Stream-ripping, by which internet users remove and store content away from its original advertising-revenue generating platform, is becoming a significant problem.

A report commissioned by the IPO and PRS for Music has revealed that 15% of internet users have been involved in stream-ripping. It also reveals that nearly a quarter (24%) of “stream-rippers” believe that their actions were not infringing IP rights.

The use of stream-ripping websites increased by 141.3% between 2014 and 2016. In a survey of over 9000 people, 57% of UK adults claimed to be aware of stream-ripping services. Those who claimed to have used a stream-ripping service were significantly more likely to be male and between the ages of 16 to 34 years.

Ros Lynch, Copyright and IP Enforcement Director at the IPO, said: “It’s great that legal streaming sites continue to be a hugely popular choice for consumers. The success and popularity of these platforms show the importance of evolution and innovation in the entertainment industry.

Ironically it is innovation that also benefits those looking to undermine IP rights and benefit financially from copyright infringement. There has never been more choice or flexibility for consumers of TV and music, however illicit streaming devices and stream-ripping are threatening this progress.

Content creators deserve to be paid for their work – it is not a grey area. This government takes IP infringement extremely seriously and we are working with our industry partners and law enforcement to tackle this emerging threat.” To read the IPO’s press release in full, click here.